The Healthy Eating Struggles I ALWAYS Hear About & What To Do About Them
I love love love getting emails from the LSF community. It helps me figure out what to give you more of, and I also get to see what you guys just aren’t feeling. BUT the #1 reason I love getting emails from you guys is that I get to learn SO much about all of you. It’s amazing to see the unique ways each one of you is facing your struggles and dealing with them head on.
In reading all of your stories, there are some clear themes – things that a whole bunch of you are all dealing with – and while I love responding individually, I want to provide a place for you guys to connect with each other and the whole LSF community to get some extra support. So write a comment! Share the post on Facebook! I’m writing this post because so many of you are on the same page…let’s take advantage of the amazing community we have.
So what IS the #1 nutrition struggle I hear about?
Snacking on junk food.
And man, do I understand how hard that one can be! Even people who don’t identify as emotional eaters will get to the end of a long day and just crave a quick hit of sugar or a crunchy, salty snack. This can be SO frustrating: you put so much effort in all day – you nail it with a healthy breakfast, you brought your salad to work and skipped lunch out with your coworkers, you even made it to the gym after a stressful workday – and then…you finish off a whole bag of Doritos. Two steps forward, one step back.
The first thing I want to say before ANYTHING else (hear me on this one!), finishing off a bag of Doritos is NOT the end of the world. You’re on a fitness journey and indulging in junk food doesn’t change that. In fact, guilt is one of the biggest problems with junk food: if you hate yourself for caving in and eating a handful of Doritos, then a lot of the time, the discouragement will make you completely give up.
That’s when you get to “OMG I just ate a whole family sized bag alone.” Even if you have a healthy portion of a sugary desert every single day, that is a more psychologically healthy place to be in than constantly stressing about food and then having a full meltdown when you “mess up”!
But not all junk food snacking is created equal. And if you want to address your junk food habit, the first step is figuring out why you can’t say no. Here are the four most common types of people that struggle with junk food holding them back.
1. The Sleepy Snacker
Guess what the number one source of fuel for your brain is. Straight-up glucose, ladies – aka, simple sugars. The white breads, the sugary sodas, the double fudge brownies. All forms of carbohydrate eventually break down into glucose, but when you’re tired, your brain wants the quickest fix of simple sugars, so it goes for the ones that are ready to be used for fast fuel!
Have you ever gotten a candy craving while focusing really hard on a project for school or work? It’s because your brain needs some quick energy to keep firing. But just because your brain says it wants candy does not mean you *have* to get candy.
TIPS for you:
Before you go for the gummy bears, try to eat a slice of whole wheat toast with almond butter. Healthy fats are an incredible way to fuel your body and stop cravings. Give it 15 minutes. If you still want gummy worms, have them! But try to give your body another form of fuel to get through the craving.
My other go-to when trying to avoid sleepy snacking, a 5 minute LSF workout. Sometimes it’s all you need to get back on track and train yourself to recognize the difference between real hunger and crazy cravings.
2. The Stress Eater
Eating snacks we love releases dopamine (the happy hormone) in our brains! So when you’re stressed out and just looking for a little relief, it makes perfect sense that you would go for your favorite childhood snack or your favorite comfort food. Unfortunately, if you are trying to change your lifestyle to be more healthy, eating that food will ultimately stress you out even more. You’ll feel like you “failed,” so you get more anxiety, so you eat another cupcake to feel better, and the cycle continues.
First of all, strive to stop the cycle of guilt as SOON as you feel it. It really will come back to bite you, and it will make your journey so much harder. Second, are there any healthier snacks that bring you those same feelings as comfort food?
TIPS for you:
Sometimes, a simple swap can help: if Doritos are your weakness, give some nacho cheese flavored cashews a chance. The healthy fats will help curb your cravings and keep you full.
Take a bubble bath!! It’s hard to eat mindlessly when you’re trying to relax in the tub, and it might just bring your stress levels down enough that you take the time to make a truly nourishing meal for yourself
3. The Busy Bee by Day / Snack Monster by Night
This girl is the one who runs around all day long, forgetting to eat entire meals, who then gets home and eats everything in the pantry. If this is you, your problem is that you aren’t eating enough! This sounds kinda backwards, right? Certainly, portion sizes in this country are WAY too big. However, guess when your willpower is the weakest…when you’re starving!
I know results will seem to come faster if you deprive yourself of food (and many of us are good at skipping meals during our busy days) but when you get home to relax for the night, your body is going to try and get the nutrition it needs.
You’ll notice you crave salt when your dehydrated, sugar when you’re brain didn’t get enough carbs, chocolate or meat when you’re iron deficient. It’s actually really cool and I give you tips for this in the LSF Plan too! But the point is: EAT THROUGHOUT THE DAY! If you are well-nourished, the decision to grab a healthy snack will be so much easier than if you get home ravenously hungry.
TIPS for you:
Schedule snacks, and pack them in advance.
Drink a glass of water. If you were too busy to eat, you were probably too busy to stay hydrated. Then, focus on being mindful and slowing down a bit as you snack.
4. The Peer-Pressured Indulger
You sit down to catch up on the Bachelor, and your friend hands you a giant class of wine and some buttery popcorn. Or your mom made chocolate chip cookies! Or, your boyfriend picked up chicken nuggets on the way home and you LOVE those chicken nuggets. I get it! Life is happening and food is a huge part of our social relationships.
That’s a great thing. In my opinion, the best time to give yourself a break is when you’re having fun with others. But again, if you have it in your head that this is the only “good” food you’ll get for a week, that’s a recipe for overeating.
Moderation is a principle you truly have to believe in: you are ALLOWED to eat whatever you want whenever you want it, but you want to feel your best. And you won’t feel your best trying to workout with 8 cookies in your stomach.
Tips for you:
HAVE the cookie! No guilt. If you feel the freedom to indulge in moderation, you will stop at one or two, instead of 10.
Volunteer to bring the snacks yourself. Then, you can bring a healthy batch of no bake brownies or some organic air-popped popcorn. Everyone wins!
You’re not alone, babe.
Please know, there are many reasons why junk food might be a struggle for you, but these are some of the most common reasons people relay to me. We all hear so many messages about food on a daily basis, so it can be really hard to enjoy eating, and this community you have in Team LSF is here to support you. All of us have struggles.
Above all, do NOT fixate on perfection. The more you keep tally of your tiny mistakes, the more shame you will attach to food! The heart behind all of this is that you girls would truly be able to live without guilt when you have a sweet treat or miss a workout.
Once you feel how amazing it is to get regular exercise and eat nourishing foods, you won’t sweat the small stuff as much. You will naturally crowd out the foods that make you feel worse, and gravitate toward real nutrition. My Guiltless Nutrition Guide is full of these types of recipes: food that lets you enjoy food and enjoy your life, while also helping you look and feel your best.
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For those of your struggling with junk food, I hope these tips help you live with just a little more freedom around food! What you eat cannot change a single thing about who you ARE. Live guiltless, my loves.